All posts by Stephen Paine

Maidstone MP lights way for Maidstone’s vulnerable

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

MP Helen Grant has urged her Maidstone and the Weald constituents to sign up to receive help in the event of a power cut.

The Priority Services Register is a free service run by UK Power Networks which provides vulnerable people with the support they need in the event of a power cut.

A number of people in the Maidstone area are already signed up to the register, however Mrs Grant has called on her constituents to investigate whether anybody they know may be eligible for the scheme.

The service is available to a wide range of people including those who rely on power for medical needs, have young children, or are recovering from an operation, however the company will consider any application made.

The register ensures that vulnerable people will receive extra support if they experience a power cut, including a 24-hour priority phone number to call for updates, and the possibility of home visits, hot meals and even a free hotel overnight stay.

Anybody signed up will also receive a free pack which contains helpful items including a plug-in-the-wall torch that automatically switches on when there is a power cut, a glow stick and a storage bottle where people can keep vital personal and medical information in the event of an emergency.

“I am fully supportive of this sensible service and I would urge any of my constituents who are in need of extra support to make an application. It is vital that we protect the most vulnerable members of society in the event of a power cut and I commend UK Power Networks for taking the initiative on this issue.”

Customers can apply to join the register by visiting www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/priority, calling 0800 169 9970, or emailing psr@ukpowernetworks.co.uk

Heritage lottery funding helping to mark centenary

MP Helen Grant has called on businesses in her constituency of Maidstone and the Weald to take advantage of grants offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

As part of the World War One centenary commemorations, HLF has made £2million available this year for communities looking to explore, conserve and share local heritage of the war. Grants are available between £3,000 and £10,000.

There are now more than 1,620 First World War projects taking place across the UK, thanks to more than £82million of investment from HLF. However Maidstone and the Weald has yet to be awarded any money under the scheme. Mrs Grant, who was formerly Minister for the World War One Centenary, has urged organisations in her constituency to investigate whether they might qualify for funding.

Mrs Grant said: “This is a hugely important initiative and it is right that we do all we can to commemorate the courageous sacrifices made 100 years ago. The projects seen so far have been evocative and inspiring. Now I am keen for more local residents to get involved with this important scheme. I would urge anyone with an idea for their own project to get in touch with the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Thanks to National Lottery funding, thousands of young people and communities throughout the UK have already been involved in activities marking the Centenary. These have included researching and recording local heritage, conserving war memorials, and using digital technology to share the fascinating stories that have been uncovered.
Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the HLF, said: “The demand for National Lottery funding for First World War projects has been phenomenal and so far we have reached almost 83 per cent of UK constituencies. But we want to make that 100 per cent. So we are urging everyone with an idea for a project, even if you have been HLF funded before, to get in touch.”

Helen Grant MP laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London to mark anniversary of WW1 Gallipoli Campaign
Helen Grant MP laying a wreath at the Cenotaph in London to mark anniversary of WW1 Gallipoli Campaign

MP launches petition to save Maidstone barracks

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant is launching a petition opposing the closure of Invicta Park Barracks.

Campaigners with Helen Grant at the Invicta Park Barracks – December 2016
Campaigners with Helen Grant at the Invicta Park Barracks – December 2016

The petition calls on the Ministry of Defence to reconsider this decision in light of the negative impact upon some 800 service personnel and their families as well as our County town both economically and socially, and through loss of the army’s longstanding civil community support.

Helen said, ‘From all of the soundings I have taken so far I know that many local people are concerned about the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks, breaking centuries of military tradition in Maidstone. There is also great affection for the town’s vibrant Nepalese community and local people are wanting to show their support for them. I feel duty bound to launch this petition and provide an official platform for people to voice their opposition. I am also sending a survey to around 10,000 randomly selected addresses in the central Maidstone area to allow people to share their views about the proposed closure of Invicta Park Barracks. The survey can be downloaded here http://bit.ly/2kjPxSI and I encourage anyone and everyone to take part.’

The petition is available online at: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-maidstone-barracks. Petition forms are also available at Helen Grant’s constituency office on the London-bound forecourt of Maidstone East railway station. The petition will be handed in to the Ministry of Defence before Easter this year.

Leader of the Maidstone Nepalese community Mr Dhan Chand issued the following statement;

‘We all feel that that this decision will have a devastating impact on our community. We have always been encouraged to take a long term view and create a permanent home here and we have worked so hard for many years to become an integral part of the Maidstone community.

We hope that people from across the borough will use Helen’s petition and survey to voice their opposition to the barracks closure and help us to keep Maidstone as our home.’

Lt Col J B Awford (ret), former Commanding Officer of Invicta Park Barracks, said;

‘I believe the decision to close Invicta Park Barracks is unsound. It will be a negative step for the army, for Maidstone and, no doubt, for the established Nepalese community.’

 

·       The proposed closure of Invicta Park Barracks was announced in November 2016 as part of the Government’s ‘A Better Defence Estate Strategy.’

·       It is one of 91 proposed closures to military bases across the UK.

·       Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-defence-estate-strategy

·       Helen’s survey download is here: http://bit.ly/2kjPxSI

·       The online petition is here: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-maidstone-barracks

MP expresses disappointment at inspector’s interim findings

An Inspector who is reviewing Maidstone Borough Council’s draft local plan recently released his interim findings in advance of the final hearing being held today.

Local MP Helen Grant, who presented to the Inspector on 17th November 2016 with concerns for transport and congestion around the town, has written to the Inspector in response to this document, to express her serious concern.

The interim findings, which set the tone for the Inspector’s final report, seemingly ignore the concerns that were raised, not only by Mrs Grant but also Kent County Council (the highways authority) and a number of other stakeholders regarding the issue of congestion. This is a particular issue for the South of Maidstone where the draft plan proposes a large number of houses will be built in coming years, in addition to those already in progress.

Helen criticised the Inspector’s conclusion that an extension of the Sutton Road bus lane would help to mitigate traffic travelling into the town centre. She also expressed her disappointment that the Inspector did not feel that the matter of poor air quality in this area was sufficient enough to limit or prevent development.

Furthermore the MP for Maidstone again stressed the case for the long-discussed ‘Leeds-Langley Bypass’ saying:

“I feel that the people of Maidstone deserve the right for investigations to be made into a possible relief road, which would divert a significant amount of traffic away from this area of the town.”

In addition to above, Helen reminded the Inspector of the fact that she is fighting the closure of Invicta Park Barracks, which has been earmarked for possible housing in the future.

Mrs Grant closed her letter by imploring the Inspector to listen to the views of local people writing:

“As I indicated in my presentation to you previously, the most common concern raised with me as the MP for the area is regarding the rate, scale and impact of housing developments around the county town. I do not feel that your interim report has recognised the severity of these concerns especially with regards to congestion. I therefore very much hope your final report can recommend mitigation and in doing so will recognise the objections raised by local people.”

Helen Grant backs new Ofcom app

Helen Grant MP
Helen Grant MP

MP Helen Grant praised a new Ofcom app as she continued her fight for better digital coverage for her Maidstone and the Weald constituents.

Mrs Grant, who has repeatedly held Network Operators to account for failing to provide her constituency with quality phone and broadband reception, hailed the accessibility of the new Mobile and Broadband Checker app, which is designed to provide users with all the information they need to get the best signal available to them.

This new app builds upon a research app released by Ofcom last year which was previously reported by Helen (http://bit.ly/2jXykOo). The new app checks the performance of the user’s mobile and broadband reception, and provides suggestions and solutions if it detects any service problems.

It also allows consumers to compare Network Operators, via a network coverage map, to discover which provider offers them the best voice, 3G, or 4G coverage in any chosen location. The app is free and available to both Apple and Andoid users. There is also a desktop version, which can be used to check broadband reception on PCs and laptops.

Helen Grant MP said:

“I am encouraged by the release of this new app. It provides consumers with an accessible means to quickly discover which providers offer them the best level of service. Hopefully this will provide the impetus to force all the major Network Operators to step up their game.

It is high time my constituents were offered a choice of fast and reliable internet and mobile services. I commend Ofcom for taking this positive step towards greater industry transparency.”

MP Helen’s in the swim at historic club awards evening

Helen Grant MP at the Maidstone SC 2017 awards with volunteer coach Michelle Clarke and head coach Clair Muller
Helen Grant MP at the Maidstone SC 2017 awards with volunteer coach Michelle Clarke and head coach Clair Muller

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant was delighted to present awards to some of Maidstone’s brightest young swimming talents this week at the UK’s most historic swimming club.

Founded in 1844, Maidstone Swimming Club is recognised as the oldest competitive swimming club in the country. It was formed to combat concern over drownings in the river Medway. Members used to swim in the river as well as hold diving competitions and polo matches.

Under head-coach Claire Muller and Chairman Paul Chilman the club is going from strength to strength, with more children than ever achieving county and regional times. Recently 65 of the club’s swimmers have qualified for the Kent County Swimming Championships and one member has even trialed for Team GB.

Helen Grant said “It was a real pleasure for me to be able to present awards to some of our brilliant young swimmers and it is fantastic to see so many of our young people dedicating themselves to sport. Maidstone is extremely fortunate to pay host to such a fantastic establishment. This club is truly historic and it gives our youngsters a great grounding in life. Not only that, but the talent and ability on show today demonstrates great promise for our region’s sporting future!”

Volunteer Coach Michelle Clarke said: “We had a fantastic evening at Maidstone swimming club presentation evening, with thanks to Helen Grant MP for her assistance with the presentations and kind and inspiring words. We are delighted to celebrate all the hard work and achievements of our swimmers and coaches, and we look forward to more success in 2017.”

‘Staplehurstmakers’ make a name for themselves as local MP lends support

Meeting at the aptly named Helen’s Coffee House in Staplehurst High Street, Helen Grant talked with members of the collective of skilled tradespeople known as Staplehurstmakers to learn about their refreshing approach to business.

The group of artisans, designers and makers are all based in the Staplehurst area. Together they aim to encourage and support each other through monthly meetings and by raising the profile of local handmade goods through quarterly craft fairs in Staplehurst.

Their established meeting place is Staplehurst’s independently owned Helen’s coffee house under the vibrant proprietorship of Helen Rose.

After her meeting Helen Grant said ‘It was great to meet some of the members of Staplehurst makers. With their mutual support I am sure the collective will enjoy great success and I wish them well’.

It was also good to see Helen’s Coffee House becoming very much a community hub for Staplehurst. The owner told me she is about to launch a board and card games morning for local people who are seeking a bit of a giggle and a chat over tea and a bun – what a lovely idea’.

Helen at Helen's coffee house
Helen at Helen’s coffee house

Marden playground saved!

A children’s playground has been rescued from demolition after local residents brought their MP into the fight.

Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant was approached by Marden resident Anna Fisk, who also runs Marden Children’s Centre, after failing to secure council funding to maintain the play area in the Cockpit, Marden. Worse still Ms Fisk heard rumours that the play area may be removed completely.

After visiting the playground and meeting with local residents, Helen wrote to Maidstone Borough Council, made further extensive representations on behalf of the parents and children of the Cockpit and arranged a meeting with William Cornall, the newly appointed Director of Regeneration & Place at Maidstone Borough Council.

The playground is one of two in Marden. The council felt that children from Cockpits should be able to walk to the other playground without realising that many were much too small to wander unaccompanied or play without supervision. At their own playground they can be viewed by parents and carers from their own homes much more safely.

Mrs Grant was therefore delighted to receive a phone call from Mr Cornell on Friday 4th November in which he confirmed that MBC have commissioned repairs and maintenance to the value of £2,500 to take place on The Cockpit’s Playground with works commencing within 3 weeks.

On hearing the news, Helen said: “I am delighted by Maidstone Borough Council’s sensible decision to spend this money in a very valuable and needy area of my constituency. This small change will make the world of difference to local children and give them somewhere to play, have fun and just be kids.”

Anna said: “I am hugely satisfied that the Council has seen the importance and the worth of ensuring that the children who live on the cockpit estate, continue to have their own safe place to play. I am very happy that the council realise that such a simple low cost decision could have such a hugely positive impact on our community. We will always fight to keep our children’s right to play.”

Helen holds OFCOM and Government to account on diversity at the BBC

Helen Grant holds the Government to account over lack of diversity on BBC
Helen speaking in Parliament

As the BBC Charter renewal was debated in the Commons, Tory diversity champion Helen Grant MP ratchetted up the pressure to deliver a truly diverse future at the BBC.

In a speech described by Labour opposition MP Helen Goodman as “characteristically powerful”, Mrs Grant set out a list of requests for the Secretary of State, her Minister and OFCOM to plug the gaps in the Charter and the Agreement; whilst stressing in her speech, transparency drives diversity.

The MP for Maidstone & The Weald noted the Department for Culture, Media and Sport had published helpful information sheets on a large number of policy areas. However the department has failed to produce a comprehensive document setting out the diversity and equal opportunities processes. Mrs Grant pressed for such a comparable document from the Secretary of State and her Ministers to be published as soon as possible.

Helen also asked for the Secretary of State to confirm that the diversity recruitment provisions, would apply equally to off-screen and on-screen personnel, from all suppliers both internally and third party contractors. This is to reflect the fact that the Draft Charter states, the BBC must ensure it reflects the diverse communities of the whole of the United Kingdom.

Mrs Grant further pressed for the BCC to make the public aware of their arrangements to achieve equal opportunities in relation to disability, race and sex and for the Secretary of State to pay special attention to the word “effectiveness”, used in the Draft Charter, to ensure the process delivers effective action.

MP RETURNS TO HER LEGAL ROOTS MARKING 20 YEARS OF SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

She was the founder and Senior Partner of one of the largest family law legal aid practices in the South East, and remains a lifelong activist in supporting survivors of domestic violence.

MP for Maidstone & The Weald Helen Grant was therefore amongst good friends when she joined the Choices team for their 20th Anniversary event at the Mote Leisure Centre.

Starting out in 1996 as Dartford & Gravesham Women’s Aid, and then North Kent Women’s Aid, the name of Choices was adopted in 2014 to recognise the range of support services they provide to men, women and young people affected by domestic abuse across West Kent and Medway.

Helen said “I’ve campaigned for better support and services for the survivors of domestic violence for many years. It was great to be able to join with the Choices team in Maidstone to thank them for all that they do and to assure them of my ongoing support whenever I can be of help in the future. Domestic Abuse remains a scourge in our society and without the fantastic volunteers and organisations like Choices the lot of survivors would be very stark indeed”.

Helen at the Choices 20th Anniversary reception
Helen at the Choices 20th Anniversary reception, Mote Leisure Centre, Maidstone.